Ongoing Taliban infighting between two rival factions in southern Afghanistan has left at least 50 terrorists from both sides dead, Al Jazeera learned from a police chief.
One of the factions is backed by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists in Afghanistan, claimed the police chief.
The two factions have been fighting each other over the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mansour who replaced Mullah Omar as the Taliban’s new leader.
Police Chief Mirwais Noorzai said that fighters led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool clashed with those loyal to Mullah Mansour in Zabul province on Sunday.
Rasool was elected by the Taliban dissident group, known as the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate, to replace Mansour.
“Civilians have left the area due to heavy clashes between the two groups,” reportedly said Noorzai.
“The fight took place in the Arghandab district of Zabul province. Most of the area is under the Taliban control,” he added. “We’ve been asking for military assistance for very long now.”
The Taliban splinter group has reportedly linked up with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban faction under Mullah Rasool was backed by the ISIL and Uzbek fighters in the fight,” revealed the police chief, adding, “About 40 Taliban from Rasool’s group and 10 from Mansoor’s have been killed in the fight.”
Abdul Manan Niazi, a spokesperson for the breakaway Taliban faction, denied being associated with ISIS.
“We will never join them. Their ideologies are different; they come from a different background and a different history,” Niazi told Al Jazeera.
“These are all false accusations. We can never ask for their support to fight our enemies or to re-establish Islamic rule,” he added.
ISIS has been engaged in turf battles against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The jihadist group, which controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria, started to establish a presence in Zabul earlier this year, notes Al Jazeera.
The spokesman for the breakaway Taliban faction accused Mullah Mansour loyalists of initiating the fight.
“Since the announcement of our new leader, we’ve been highlighting that we are not in favor of fighting with each other,” he said. “This fight was initiated by them.”
A commander within Mullah Mansour’s faction in Zabul told Al Jazeera that his side would continue to battle those who oppose their “supreme leader.”
“Anyone who does not acknowledge Mullah Mansoor is our enemy,” he said.
“The faction group is formed by foreigners and our enemies; this won’t stop us. Nothing can stop us from continuing our jihad,” added the unnamed commander.
The appointment of Mullah Mansour has threatened to split the Taliban in two. Mullah Rasool was reportedly elected as the leader of the splinter group without the approval of the Taliban Supreme Council, or Shura Council.
Mullah Mansour’s appointment did get the blessing of the council.
Afghanistan has experienced a surge in Taliban attacks since President Obama and NATO ended their combat mission in December 2014, withdrawing most of their troops from the war-torn nation.
The Taliban recently managed to briefly occupy the city of Kunduz, the first provincial capital to fall into the hands of the insurgent group since it was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Afghan security forces and civilians have sustained record casualties at the hands of the Taliban. President Obama has decided to extend the U.S. military presence in the country beyond 2016 despite promises to reduce the American force to a small embassy presence by the beginning of 2017.